Brad Clarke cuts an imposing figure. And so he should. He is a world bodybuilding champion, after all.
The 49-year-old Townsend personal trainer has just returned from Las Vegas where he won the masters division and was rated second in overall competition at the Fitness America Musclemania World Championships held at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino.
When he met with the Independent at the Bodyrock Fitness centre, where he trains himself and others, Clarke was quick to praise all of the people whose generosity and support propelled him towards achieving his long-held dream.
His employer, Warwick Foster, Clarence Community Transport’s CEO, put it this way when asked about sponsoring Clarke’s competitive forays: “It’s not every day you get a potential world champ in your ranks – we were already very proud of what he had achieved in Australia.
“He’s a fantastic staff member who has been with us for a long time.”
The sponsorship was provided through the Yamba Airport Shuttle Service, which is an ancillary division of Clarence Community Transport Inc.
Clarke lavishes praise on his supporters. “The day before I was flying out I was working out and Gary Mills just sat $500 beside me and said, ‘go and enjoy Vegas’,” he says. “He left it for no other reason than his generosity and wanting to see somebody do well. I had another girl that I had helped out [before qualifying for the world championships] send me a $1,000 Qantas voucher.
“With Tom [Griffiths] at Bodyrock and work [shuttle service] supporting me the way they have, plus the ongoing financial support [while contesting events in Australia] … I think there must have been about 100 people put little bits and pieces in here and there. It’s just been phenomenal.
“I made sure that I followed through with my bit, but it wouldn’t have been possible if people hadn’t believed in me.”
Clarke says winning a world championship has been a lifelong goal. “When I was 17, I’d never trained, but I was naturally well built. A fella said to me, ‘You should do bodybuilding’. So I started at 18 years old, and at my first contest – I had no idea what I was doing –I came second in Queensland. I was hooked.”
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though: there was a six-year period where 20-years of disciplined training ran off the rails. “I stopped focusing on me,” he says. “I started focusing on other parts of my life and I just became the typical Aussie bloke.
“From the age of 38 to 44 I was a bit hit and miss; eating wrong, drinking a six-pack every afternoon, eating chips on the lounge. The consequences of that were that I got really, really crook.”
A “fortunate” misdiagnosis of low grade lymphoma meant that for five or six months he had to go through the “whole cancer rigmarole of surgeries, oncology and everything else”.
“It turned the world upside down and then I had renal failure, so my kidneys packed it. The doctors told me three times, ‘You’re gone’. That was the epiphany. I battled through that … I had to sell my house to pay for all of the medical bills.”
As it turned out, Clarke was suffering from rare complications associated with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that is not cancerous.
“I was looking back [at my life] and I was everything I didn’t want to be. I thought, ‘what made me, me? What is happening?’ I walked back through those [fitness centre] doors, as 73kgs of what I call skinny fat, so I wasn’t in good physical form. I came back and made me, me again.”
Clarke is 168 centimetres of muscle and sinew; his weight maxes out from his current 88kgs to about 98kgs in the off-season – his competition weight is about 82kgs.
Now, he has set a goal to make a difference in other people’s lives. “In 2016 I’m focusing on others,” he says. “I’m giving my mental side of contest preparation a break. I put it on the whiteboard when I got home … to help 20 other people reach their goals and ambitions, whether it’s a sporting achievement or a personal goal.
“I’ve always had a vision. I’ve been watching the obesity epidemic coming to the nation since the ’80s. With people eating incorrectly, we are just getting fatter and fatter. One of my mission statements was to make an impact on that, and that’s why I’ve always been involved in the fitness industry.
“I want to teach people that if they just keep chipping away, their goals can come true.
“If I can inspire one person…”